Ms. Dessie Burgess attended Cheyney University from 1962-1965. Now a small framed woman in her early 80s, Dessie admits she was a late bloomer. “I decided to go to Cheyney 17 years after I graduated from high school.”
The decision to attend Cheyney for Ms. Burgess was prompted mostly by her divorce. She realized that the marriage wasn’t working and realized that she needed to be self-sufficient. So she left a government job that she held for twelve years to attend Cheyney University. That decision to return to school ultimately changed the rest of her life. “I knew that I had something more to offer. I found that at Cheyney”, she said.
To support herself and pay her tuition, Dessie worked in various positions while attending Cheyney, ultimately landing a position at Henry C. Lea Elementary school at 48th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia. It was at this school that Ms. Burgess was later hired after graduating from Cheyney University, the start of her teaching career that lasted more than 30 years.
Ultimately, Ms. Burgess has received many awards, including the Teacher of Excellency award from the Philadelphia School District. She dug through boxes of certificates and accolades to share the richness of her life, the life of a woman who has learned that “true richness is measured by what’s inside.” Often she reiterates that everyone has a gift to share, teaching was hers.
Ms. Burgess has worked with young people in various ways throughout her career including with the Girl Scouts and youth ministries at her church. And she attributes all of her achievements to the education she received at Cheyney University. “My time at Cheyney wasn’t all great”, she says, “but it prepared me for the world.”